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County Residents Minister To ‘Forgotten Children’

Vernon Hill resident Donna McDowell Davis was among a group of five adults and two teenagers who set their sights on a mission trip to Jinja, Uganda, last fall.

Leaving on Friday, Oct. 30, the group traveled to Jinja in eastern Uganda in Africa led by the Hands Of Compassion International President Chris Tolley.

“But first and foremost we were led by Jesus Christ,” said Davis, “to do as He commanded before ascending into Heaven as recorded in Matthew 28:19, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”’ 

Davis offered the following facts she and others in the missionary group learned about Uganda during their African trip:

• Over 28.5 million people live in Uganda, of which 53 percent are 15 and under;

• 80 percent of the people live in villages with little or no access to health care, electricity and basic everyday needs;

• The average working Ugandan earns $1 a day;

• In 1960 the country was flourishing, but in the 70s and 80s over 350,000 of the country’s people were slaughtered due to internal strife;

• The average lifespan in Uganda is 42 years.

• Some 2 million orphans of AIDS and war can be found in Uganda villages.

Davis and others journeyed to Jinja, Uganda to a small village called Massese where they were called to work. 

“In this small village there are so very many children living in poverty that it was beyond our understanding.  The only difference in these people and us is that they were born in a poverty stricken place, and we were born in the U.S.,” she said.

“There is no way that I can make anyone understand this poverty, unless I could bottle the horrific smell of smoke from burning coals cooking whatever they had, the horrible smell of banana beer brewing in the village, the stench of raw sewage everywhere. 

“If you could look into the children’s eyes and see the despair, see their distended stomachs from parasites or malnutrition; be with the children all day and know that no one would be coming to call them to come home to eat; and to see the rags they wore that partially covered their little thin bodies.

“It’s impossible to describe seeing the naked bodies of children with no clothes; to feel the heat of the bright sun beaming down on their heads infected with ringworms, scabies or lice.  If you could have only experienced these things then you could understand,” Davis said of the emotionally draining mission trip she and others experienced in Uganda.

According to Davis, the groups witnessed hundreds of these children roaming the dirt roads trying to find any means of food they can find. 

In Massese they call this “picking,” she explained. Some of these children have the AIDS virus and are not expected to live long.

“At one school we visited in Massese to have Vacation Bible School, they were met by a seemingly unending line of children standing and waiting at the “feeding center” for what seemed like hours to get some beans and rice…something to fill their starving bodies,” she continued.

Davis said she watched as children held makeshift containers, anything that would hold the precious supply of food. 

“I didn’t walk to the end of the line but when taking pictures at the front of the line I never saw one child with a smile on his/her face…you only saw horrific sadness, hurt and pain in their weak eyes,” she said describing the dire circumstances in which these youngsters live. 

“Some of the children were carrying babies wrapped around their backs that I’m sure they were taking care of on a daily basis, she said explaining that many of the older children, after losing both parents, take on the responsibility of rearing the other children in the family.

Davis, along with others on this missionary journey, said they saw a myriad of children who have been forced to grow up too fast and  who have never experienced a childhood with someone to love and hug them. 

“These children have lived through some of the most unimaginable events you could ever dream of,” she added.

They also saw many children who had opportunities to attend school, but many more who did not. 

“When you look into the eyes of these precious children, you ask yourself…what is my role in God’s plan to reach this child for Christ.  What does He want me to do?” she asked.

According to Davis, this is where she believes Hands of Compassion, International (HOCI) Ministries comes into play. 

With a goal of transforming communities like Massese, the ministry first provides these children with what they need to live and learn to make a living in their community.

Then it offers them an opportunity to live for Christ, she said of the mission’s purpose. 

“The hope is that God will use these little ones to change the entire community for Jesus, and one day they might become the spiritual leaders of their countries,” she added. 

HOCI wants to build churches that teach the truth of Jesus Christ and from that church to build Christian schools, medical centers, orphanages, houses, nutritional centers, vocational educational centers, and HOCI also has started a child sponsorship program to help as many children as possible have a chance of getting an education and to be taught about Jesus Christ, so that they will have hope of a better life, Davis explained.

“What a blessed opportunity we have to work with such a precious group of children as are in the Macedonia Child Outreach Project (MCOP),” she added.

When the group first visited this area in Uganda last fall, Davis said they were overwhelmed at the poverty and the desolation they found.

“God has given us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many needy children there,” she continued.

Working with her partner and brother in Christ, Pastor Alfred, Davis said the group works to continue offering care and attention to each child.

Alfred, founder of the Macedonia Child Outreach Project, is working to do something in this forgotten village, and Davis said the outreach project offers this community an opportunity to help these children.

For more information or to sponsor a child or make a one-time donation, interested persons are asked to contact Chris Tolley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via cell phone at 434-610-2904; Ryland and/or Donna M. Davis at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via phone 434-476-7004. 

To find out more information and for updates on this project, visit